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Veterans Law

VA Benefits for National Guard and Reserve Members

Jenna Zellmer

July 27, 2018

Updated: June 20, 2024

VA Benefits for National Guard and Reserve Members

Qualifying Service for VA Reservists and National Guard Benefits

National Guard and Reserve members who receive discharges other than dishonorable are eligible for certain VA benefits.  Length of service as well as duty status may determine eligibility for other VA benefits.

Active Guard Reserve Members

Some VA National Guard and Reserve member benefits require a certain amount of active service.  VA states that active service includes:

  • Active Duty (Title 10): This would mean full-time active duty in the Armed Forces, including unit deployment, “travel to and from such duty,” but does not include active duty for training.
  • Full-Time National Guard Duty (Title 31): Duty under Title 31 would be duty that you perform that makes you entitled to receive pay from the Federal government. Common examples include being called up to respond to a national emergency or duties as a member of the Active Duty Reserve.

It is important to note that State Active Duty (when a governor activates National Guard members in response to a natural disaster, for example) does not qualify as active service for purposes of receiving VA National Guard and Reserve member benefits.

Traditional National Guard or Reserve Member

Traditional National Guard or Reserve members typically only serve on active duty one weekend per month and two weeks per year.  They can become eligible for certain VA benefits by fulfilling a service commitment.

  • To be eligible for VA disability compensation, members must have a disability that resulted from an injury or disease that was incurred or aggravated in the line of duty during either active duty or active duty for training.
  • To be eligible for disability compensation for a disability that occurred during inactive duty training, the disability must have resulted from an injury, heart attack, or stroke.

Veterans cannot receive VA disability compensation for injuries or conditions that occurred during State Active Duty (e.g., when the National Guard is called up by a state’s governor in response to a natural or man-made disaster).

Line of Duty

Whether a disability occurred in the “line of duty” is an administrative determination made by the Reserve Unit or National Guard after an investigation.  The determination states whether a soldier’s injury or disease occurred while on duty status.

VA Benefits for National Guard and Reserve Members

Disability Compensation for National Guard and Reserve

VA Disability Compensation is a tax-free monthly benefit awarded to veterans with a 10 percent disability rating or higher.

VA will pay monthly benefits to Reservists and National Guard members for disabilities from disease or injury incurred or aggravated during active duty and active duty for training, and for disabilities from injury incurred or aggravated during inactive duty for training (Battle Assembly).

Disabilities are evaluated based on severity using VASRD (Veterans Affairs Schedule for Rating Disabilities), and then given a rating ranging from 0 to 100 percent.

VA Pension

VA pension is a tax-free benefit paid to veterans with limited income and net worth who served during a wartime period.

Generally, veterans must have 90 days or 24 months of active service (depending on when they served) to qualify.

Details regarding eligibility can be found on VA’s website.

Health Benefits for National Guard and Reserve

Eligibility for VA healthcare based on Title 32 service depends on the veteran’s disability being incurred or aggravated during their Title 32 service.  Otherwise, VA healthcare benefit eligibility depends on several factors, such as income.

National Guard or Reserve members who served on active duty in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn can receive enhanced eligibility for VA healthcare benefits if they enroll within 5 years of the date of their discharge or release from service.

VA Home Loans for National Guard and Reserve

VA home loans are essentially mortgages guaranteed by the federal government that can help eligible service members and veterans buy a home or adapt one to their needs. National Guard and Reserve members may be eligible for VA home loans if they meet certain requirements.

According to VA’s website, National Guard and Reserve members can qualify for a VA home loan if they meet the following criteria:

  • Have six years of service in the Selected Reserve; and
    • Received an honorable discharge; or
    • Were put on the retired list; or
    • Were transferred to the Standby Reserve or an element of the Ready Reserve other than the Selected Reserve after service characterized as honorable; or
  • Continues to serve in the Selected Reserves longer than six years; or
  • Had 90 days of service or more on active duty during a wartime period (Title 10); or
  • Were discharged or released from active duty for a service-connected disability.

2021 NDAA: Updated Home Loans for National Guard Members

The 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) made specific provisions for National Guard members.  Specifically, National Guard members are increasingly eligible to receive a VA home loan as of 2021.

Previously a National Guard member would need to have served for 90 consecutive days on active duty.

This new legislation makes Guard and Reserve members deployed under Title 32 (federally funded, but state-controlled deployment) who have at least 90 days of service, with 30 of those days being consecutive, eligible for the home loan program.

New Laws for Veterans and Servicemembers in 2021: NDAA

Education Benefits for National Guard and Reserve

There are several types of education benefits for which National Guard and Reserve members may be eligible, and each has different requirements and offers different benefits.

Post-9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill offers up to 36 months of education benefits to those who are eligible, for programs ranging from flight training to undergraduate or graduate degrees.

According to VA, National Guard or Reserve members must meet the below criteria to be eligible for benefits under the Post-9/11 GI Bill:

  • Received an honorable discharge from active duty “for a service-connected disability after serving at least 30 continuous days after September 10, 2001, or;”
  • Have at least 90 cumulative days of active service including:
    • Active duty service supporting named contingency operations (Title 10)
    • Full-time National Guard duty under Title 32 “for the purposes of organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing, or training”
    • Have full-time National Guard duty in which you were authorized by the Secretary of Defense or the President to respond to a national emergency (Title 32 section 502(f))

Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR)

The Montgomery GI Bill Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR) offers National Guard and Reserve members educational benefits up to $11,000 to help with costs of various education and training programs.  Benefits under MGIB-SR benefits end for eligible members on the day they leave the Selected Reserve.

VA lists the eligibility criteria as follows, and all criteria must be met:

  • Applicant must have a six-year obligation to serve in the Selected Reserves
  • Have completed Initial Active Duty for Training (IADT)
  • Serve in a drilling unit and remain in good standing
  • Have a high school diploma or its equivalent

Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP)

Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP) is meant to give educational assistance to Reserve members who are called up or ordered to active duty in response to a war or national emergency as declared by Congress or the President.

This program was ended in November of 2015, however VA’s website notes that some members are still eligible for benefits under REAP until November 25, 2019. The Post-9/11 GI Bill largely replaced REAP.

The program no longer accepts new applicants, but REAP recipients who were attending school and receiving benefits before November 2015 will still be able to receive REAP benefits until November 25, 2019.

Insurance Benefits

VA’s life insurance programs provide more financial security and lower monthly premiums to eligible servicemembers and veterans.

Servicemembers are automatically insured under full-time Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (SGLI) if they are a:

  • Member of the Ready Reserve or National Guard who is scheduled to perform at least 12 periods of inactive training per year, OR
  • Servicemember who volunteers for a mobilization category in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR)

Part-time coverage is also available to National Guard and Reserve members who do not meet the inactive training requirement but do perform duty at specific times.

Other insurance plans available to National Guard and Reserve members include:

  • Veterans’ Group Life Insurance (VGLI)
  • Family Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)
  • SGLI Traumatic Injury Protection (TSGLI)
  • Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI)
  • Veterans Mortgage Life Insurance (VMLI)

Eligibility criteria can be found on VA’s website.

Veteran Readiness and Employment

VA’s Veteran Readiness and Employment (VR&E) program provides education and training services, including vocational counseling and job-search assistance, to National Guard and Reserve members with service-connected disabilities.

You may be eligible for assistance in preparing for, obtaining, and maintaining suitable employment through VR&E if you are:

  • A Veteran with a service-connected disability rated at 20% or more, OR
  • Hospitalized or receiving outpatient medical care, services or treatment for a service-connected disability pending discharge from active duty, OR
  • Severely ill or injured and have been referred to a military Physical Evaluation Board or are participating in the DoD/VA Integrated Disability Evaluation System process, OR
  • A Veteran with a service-connected disability rated at least 10%, and your Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor determines you need rehabilitation because of a serious employment handicap

You may also qualify for career counseling if you recently separated from the military or are using VA education benefits.

About the Author

Bio photo of Jenna Zellmer

Jenna joined CCK in January of 2014 as an appellate attorney, was named Managing Attorney in September of 2019, and now serves as a Partner at the firm. Her law practice focuses on representing disabled veterans at the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

See more about Jenna